Every Sherlock Holmes needs his Watson (or Molly)

Sherlock wallpaper image from The Consulting Detective blog

Series 3 of Sherlock has just started on BBC One in the UK. As nearly everyone knows, Sherlock Holmes is a genius consulting detective. Yet, as the saying goes, every Sherlock Holmes needs his Watson (or, in the first episode of this series, needs his Molly).

Sherlock Holmes is only a part of a pair, and his partner (Dr John Watson or Dr Molly Hooper) is as an important factor in his success. Watson observes and translates Holmes’s genius so that others can understand and follow. He asks the questions on our behalf. He also has skills that Holmes lacks – technical knowledge (about medicine) and social skills. Watson is nobody’s fool.

In another situation (such as working in a software company), we might call Dr Watson a technical communicator, don’t you think?

Happy 2014 – we wish you (and ourselves) a productive and communicative new year.

The ideal length for instructional screencast videos

Screencast videos have become a popular means for delivering “how-to” information. One of the questions developers must address is, how long should you make your screencasts?

Axel Luterh SAPAt last weeks’s tekom conference, I saw an interesting presentation by Melanie Huxhold and Dr Axel Luther of SAP on how they develop screencasts for SAP’s products (Produkt- und Lernvideos als ideale Ergänzung zur klassischen Dokumentation). In their presentation, Melanie said they had determined the ideal length for their videos by sending out a questionnaire to users, asking them what they preferred.

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Changing times in technical communication 3 – The long form Help topic

New York Time snow fall article imageOne of the most recent developments in web page design has been the introduction of “long form” web pages. Will we also see the long form approach used in Help, or perhaps start to influence the way some Help pages are designed?

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Changing times in technical communication 2 – Workflow

Science Museum/Science & Society Picture LibraryWe’ve been on the road in recent days and weeks, visiting different documentation teams, and we’ve found there are distinct signs of change. In this post, I’ll look at how we’re starting to see the workflow for creating User Assistance beginning to change.

We found many documentation teams overstretched and starting to be asked how they could create content for new products that were coming along. Some organisations have decided they can only deal with this extra workload if they rethink the workflow for how content is created.

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Changing times in technical communication

Deepak Chopra quotation Flickr image  Celestine ChuaWe’ve been on the road in recent days and weeks, visiting different documentation teams, and we’ve found there are distinct signs of change.

In previous years, most documentation managers have effectively been saying to us their organisations weren’t really clear about the value of documentation. As the Technical Publications team usually amounts to less than 5% of the IT budget, the successful companies have, in the past, not worried about this and left the documentation team to work out for themselves what they should be doing. However, for organisations that have been watching every percent in the budget, they’ve reduced the spend on technical documentation to the bare minimum. Of course, in a recession that’s been quite a few companies.

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Our next Advanced Technical Writing Techniques course – 2 December

We’ve scheduled another Advanced Technical Writing Techniques public course – on Monday 2nd December.

Discover the advanced new writing styles emerging in technical communication. Don’t get left behind: past clients include technical communicators from Citrix, IBM UK, Lloyds Banking Group, Sage plc, Schlumberger and Visa International.

To book your place, see Advanced Technical Writing Techniques public course.

This will be the last public course this year.